Why do my children substitute words when they read aloud?

I love this question. Children do not realize there are many ways to read. Each reading method is determined by the purpose of the text.

Excellent readers often read in phrases. In a sense, they are scanning the page and drawing conclusions about what they think they are reading. This is fine when reading for pleasure and is one of the reasons that different people see different things in books. These readers will substitute words as they read aloud. One might substitute “fingers” for “hand.’ Another might read a long word incorrectly, but if it doesn’t change the meaning of the story, it won’t matter. When it does change the meaning of the sentence then comprehension is affected.

When we ask a fast reader to read aloud, they often substitute words, because the brain is used to moving faster across the page and saying every word feels tedious and downright boring.

Many fast readers will exhibit poor comprehension when asked to answers questions about a passage. They are accustomed to reading for pleasure which requires a different type of attention. To improve their retention of what they have read, they need to be taught how to read different types of reading material.

Do your children pause for commas and other punctuation marks? They will read as if four sentences is one. Because they don’t stop and reflect on what they have read, It is very easy for fast readers to read an entire page of text and not remember any of what they have read.

Ways To Improve Comprehension:

  1. Encourage children to pay attention to punctuation as they read aloud and silently. The comma makes them pause. It connects ideas. The period is a time to stop and reflect on what was meant by the author. They need to ask themselves, “Do I understand what was said?”
  2. They need to ask themselves, “Do I understand all the words in this sentence?” Many times they will not know one key word and skip over it, yet it holds the meaning to the entire sentence. This may not make a difference with pleasure reading, but it can make a huge difference with reading comprehension,
  3. Train students to stop after a paragraph and ask themselves, “What was this paragraph about?” Our brain remembers the first and last things we study. So stopping and reflecting after every paragraph will improve their overall recall of the material.
  4. Before they turn a page, students need to reflect on what the page was about. Many fast readers will be reading words, but be thinking about something else. As they turn the page, the brain will try to consolidate what was read, but if the student has lost focus, that process will be interrupted. This results in a student reading an entire chapter and only be able recall anything more than the first and last parts of what they read.
  5. If possible, students should read the questions they will be answering before they read the text. This alerts their reticular activation systems to know what to look for and be able to identify the most important information. By reading the questions, they will know what to highlight or make notecards to use for later review.
  6. Students should be encouraged to form their own questions as they read the text. Questioning what they have read and what they predict will happen next will keep them engaged with the material.

Please comment below if you have more questions about how to improve reading comprehension.

Share this with parents struggling with the same challenges.

1 thought on “Why do my children substitute words when they read aloud?”

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